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Uniqlo Wants to Help You Pick Out a T-Shirt By Reading Your Mind 

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Have a closet full of clothes, but can’t decide what to wear? Clothing retailer Uniqlo thinks they can help with that. A single outpost of the store in Sydney, Australia, is testing out a new method for marketing fashion to consumers. Instead of asking customers what they're interested in, the store tries to read their minds. It’s a gimmicky approach, but one they claim is backed up by neuroscience.

UMood, as Uniqlo is calling their proprietary clothing “experience,” is a bit like an interactive personality test that doesn’t require the user to do anything more than to think. The would-be clothing buyer sits down in front of a large screen, which flashes a series of videos and still images for their consideration: cherry blossoms, cats and dogs, storm clouds, a man dancing, a woman reading—each supposedly corresponding to ten moods ranging from “dandy” to “stormy.” Rather than having the viewer give conscious feedback, UMood measures brain activity for each image along five metrics: interest, concentration, stress, drowsiness, and general enjoyment. These measurements get matched to the corresponding moods, and then to particular t-shirt designs previously determined by survey to be the right fit for the mood in question.

If all this alleged science sounds a bit suspect, Uniqlo is quick to come to its own defense. Consumer neuroscientist Phil Harris, also an honorary professor at the University of Melbourne, was present at UMood’s big reveal to explain the rather impressive technology on display. The particular brain-computer-interface (BCI) headset is from tech company Neurosky, and it is coupled with custom algorithms from a Japanese company called Dentsu Science Jam. Electroencephalography data is used to “understan[d] how closely a customer is resonating with a given mood and then us[e] that reading to pick the ideal t-shirt for a customer at that time.”

Reactions to the technology were mixed. Australian comedian Ben Low, on hand as the demonstration's guinea pig, was pegged as feeling “calm,” a mood for which UMood suggested a green graphic t-shirt with a design of the three vending machine aliens from Toy Story. “I did feel like I was in a green mood,” Law admitted. He says he’d wear the shirt. Mashable's Ariel Bogle and CNET's Nic Healey, however, were more ambivalent to their options: a Merchant & Mills logo shirt and a cartoon Iron Man tee, respectively.

With over 600 t-shirt designs, Uniqlo clearly believes that there must be the perfect t-shirt for every person somewhere within their massive, color-coded stores. While that may be true for casual Fridays, UMood isn’t quite equipped to help out a weary professional pick through their business wardrobe on a Monday morning, nor can it choose the right pair of pants to go with that t-shirt—at least, not yet.

[h/t Mashable]

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Big Questions
Why Do Shorts Cost as Much as Pants?
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Shorts may feel nice and breezy on your legs on a warm summer’s day, but they’re not so gentle on your wallet. In general, a pair of shorts isn’t any cheaper than a pair of pants, despite one obviously using less fabric than the other. So what gives?

It turns out clothing retailers aren’t trying to rip you off; they’re just pricing shorts according to what it costs to produce them. Extra material does go into a full pair of pants but not as much as you may think. As Esquire explains, shorts that don’t fall past your knees may contain just a fifth less fabric than ankle-length trousers. This is because most of the cloth in these items is sewn into the top half.

Those same details that end up accounting for most of the material—flies, pockets, belt loops, waist bands—also require the most human labor to make. This is where the true cost of a garment is determined. The physical cotton in blue jeans accounts for just a small fraction of its price tag. Most of that money goes to pay the people stitching it together, and they put in roughly the same amount of time whether they’re working on a pair of boot cut jeans or some Daisy Dukes.

This price trend crops up across the fashion spectrum, but it’s most apparent in pants and shorts. For example, short-sleeved shirts cost roughly the same as long-sleeved shirts, but complicated stitching in shirt cuffs that you don’t see in pant legs can throw this dynamic off. There are also numerous invisible factors that make some shorts more expensive than nearly identical pairs, like where they were made, marketing costs, and the brand on the label. If that doesn’t make spending $40 on something that covers just a sliver of leg any easier to swallow, maybe check to see what you have in your closet before going on your next shopping spree.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Design
A Pair of New Museums Will Honor Fashion Icon Yves Saint Laurent
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Musee YSL Marrakech

In 2008, the legendary Yves Saint Laurent—the 20th century fashion luminary whose designs were inspired by fine art, menswear, Moroccan caftans, and peasant garb, among other influences—passed away at the age of 71. Now, nearly a decade after his death, fashion fans can pay homage to the iconic designer by visiting two new museums dedicated to his life and work, according to ARTnews.

Morocco's Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech pays homage to the designer in a place he famously loved. (He first bought a house in the city in 1966, and his ashes were scattered there after his death.) In 1980, he and his partner Pierre Bergé bought Marrakech's Jardin Majorelle to prevent its destruction by developers, turning it into an immensely popular public garden. Located near the garden—along a street that is named after him—the new museum's permanent and temporary exhibits alike will feature clothing items like the designer's influential safari jackets and smoking suits along with sketches, accessories, and other archival items.

The Moroccan museum will serve as a sister institution to the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, which is located at the site of Saint Laurent’s historic atelier and office in France. Following an extensive renovation of the building, the Paris institution will house thousands of sketches, photos, and fashion items related to the designer. The first exhibition will be a themed retrospective, “Yves Saint Laurent’s Imaginary Asia."

Both museums are scheduled to open in October. We’re already donning our smoking jackets.

[h/t ARTnews]

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